What to Do if Your Child Swallowed a Small Rock

Children tend to put anything they can find into their mouths. It's not limited to babies or toddlers, either. Many preschool and early elementary age children also like to put objects into their mouths -- sometimes that object is a rock. If you're worried because your child swallowed a stone, knowing what happens when her body is exposed to a foreign object can help you determine if you need medical attention.

Watch for Symptoms

Many children swallow small objects that pass through their digestive system and are eliminated a few days later. In other instances, the rock your child swallowed can cause problems, and you'll need to be on the lookout for them. If the rock gets caught in his airway, he might cough, gag or wheeze. He might also have trouble breathing or lose consciousness -- these are causes to seek emergency medical attention. Your child might also drool more often than normal, spit up, vomit or complain of stomach pain. If he exhibits any of these symptoms, you should head to the emergency room right away.

Know What Can Happen

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If some cases, the swallowed rock won't cause immediate symptoms, but can lead to other medical problems. If the rock passes through the esophagus, it'll end up in his stomach. In some cases, the object can cause an infection. Signs of an infection include abdominal pain, fever, vomiting or local tenderness, according to MedlinePlus. If your child passes the small rock, it can cause rectal or anal bleeding, which can lead to blood in your child's stool. Any of these symptoms warrant a trip to the doctor or emergency room. If your child doesn't pass the small rock within five to seven days, you should also seek medical attention because X-rays are usually required to see where the object is. Then your child's doctor will be able to choose the most appropriate course of treatment to remove the small rock.

Additional Considerations

If the small rock your child swallowed was sharp or had jagged edges, you shouldn't wait to see if symptoms develop. In most cases, even sharp objects eventually pass through your child's intestines and are eliminated in the stool, according to the website AskDr.Sears. In fewer cases, the sharp edges can cause damage to the stomach and intestines. Take your child to the emergency room and the doctor will take X-rays to determine if the sharp edges pose a danger.


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If your child is prone to putting things in his mouth, provide constant adult supervision. Watch your child closely if you have small rocks in your yard or if the playground where he plays has small rocks. If he has swallowed a small rock in the past without any complications, he might not grasp why it's so dangerous. Don't stop with supervision around small rocks, though. If your child puts things in his mouth regularly, keep other small objects, such as:

  • buttons
  • beads
  • coins
  • out of his reach

These items can cause the same esophageal and stomach problems that small rocks can.